Even confronted with enemies more powerful and numerous than him, Nehemiah kept doing God’s work. His faith that the Lord would protect the work and bless them kept him going. We have seen how he answered the call to action, how He started the inspection and his response to the enemies plot. Now we will look at his continued efforts, not letting anything slow him down. Not even the threats of a powerful enemy.
2 Chronicles 33:1-9 New King James Version (NKJV)
1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem.2 But he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abominations of the nations whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.3 For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had broken down; he raised up altars for the Baals, and made wooden images, and he worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4 He also built altars in the house of the LORD, of which the LORD had said, “In Jerusalem shall My name be forever.” 5 And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. 6 Also he caused his sons to pass through the fire in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom; he practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft and sorcery, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, to provoke Him to anger. 7 He even set a carved image, the idol which he had made, in the house of God, of which God had said to David and to Solomon his son, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever; 8 and I will not again remove the foot of Israel from the land which I have appointed for your fathers—only if they are careful to do all that I have commanded them, according to the whole law and the statutes and the ordinances by the hand of Moses.” 9 So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel.
After the good king Hezekiah passed away, his son, Manasseh, became king of Judah. Remember that Hezekiah ruled a long time and sought the LORD faithfully. He walked in the ways of David and set Judah along the Way as well.
Seduced By Their Leader
So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil
The people of Israel listened to their king and not the King of Kings. As King, he was able to manipulate the people to turn from the LORD. It probably wasn’t that hard. We are naturally inclined to sin because we are born into it.
It’s even easier when someone in power – someone we respect – leads us down that path. Manasseh reigned fifty-five years. He was doing something right in the people’s minds. They probably respected him and were happy with him. Even though he led them astray. When we are complacent with ourselves and our leaders because it feels good or “makes us happy” then we usually end up turning from the LORD.
Choosing our leaders in many countries today is considerably easier than it was then. But can be even easier to choose the one who would seduce us away from God. When we elect our leaders, we are driven to choose those who make us happy. If we are not seeking the LORD ourselves, then it is our flesh which will determine our desires and our happiness. This will so easily lead to choosing leaders who will drive us away from HIM.
Set your mind on the LORD, that your desires will be His desires. That your joy comes from the Hope in Christ. When we make important decisions about how our lives are led, seek ye first the Kingdom of God. This will bring joy.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
2 Chronicles 32:1-23 New King James Version (NKJV)
1 After these deeds of faithfulness, Sennacherib king of Assyria came and entered Judah; he encamped against the fortified cities, thinking to win them over to himself. 2 And when Hezekiah saw that Sennacherib had come and that his purpose was to make war against Jerusalem, 3 he consulted with his leaders and commanders to stop the water from the springs which were outside the city; and they helped him. 4 Thus many people gathered together who stopped all the springs and the brook that ran through the land, saying, “Why should the kings of Assyria come and find much water?” 5 And he strengthened himself, built up all the wall that was broken, raised it up to the towers, and built another wall outside; also he repaired the Millo in the City of David, and made weapons and shields in abundance. 6 Then he set military captains over the people, gathered them together to him in the open square of the city gate, and gave them encouragement, saying, 7 “Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him. 8 With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people were strengthened by the words of Hezekiah king of Judah.
9 After this Sennacherib king of Assyria sent his servants to Jerusalem (but he and all the forces with him laid siege against Lachish), to Hezekiah king of Judah, and to all Judah who were in Jerusalem, saying, 10 “Thus says Sennacherib king of Assyria: ‘In what do you trust, that you remain under siege in Jerusalem? 11 Does not Hezekiah persuade you to give yourselves over to die by famine and by thirst, saying, “The Lord our God will deliver us from the hand of the king of Assyria”? 12 Has not the same Hezekiah taken away His high places and His altars, and commanded Judah and Jerusalem, saying, “You shall worship before one altar and burn incense on it”? 13 Do you not know what I and my fathers have done to all the peoples of other lands? Were the gods of the nations of those lands in any way able to deliver their lands out of my hand? 14 Who was there among all the gods of those nations that my fathers utterly destroyed that could deliver his people from my hand, that your God should be able to deliver you from my hand? 15 Now therefore, do not let Hezekiah deceive you or persuade you like this, and do not believe him; for no god of any nation or kingdom was able to deliver his people from my hand or the hand of my fathers. How much less will your God deliver you from my hand?’”
16 Furthermore, his servants spoke against the Lord God and against His servant Hezekiah.
17 He also wrote letters to revile the Lord God of Israel, and to speak against Him, saying, “As the gods of the nations of other lands have not delivered their people from my hand, so the God of Hezekiah will not deliver His people from my hand.” 18 Then they called out with a loud voice in Hebrew to the people of Jerusalem who were on the wall, to frighten them and trouble them, that they might take the city. 19 And they spoke against the God of Jerusalem, as against the gods of the people of the earth—the work of men’s hands.
20 Now because of this King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried out to heaven. 21 Then the Lord sent an angel who cut down every mighty man of valor, leader, and captain in the camp of the king of Assyria. So he returned shamefaced to his own land. And when he had gone into the temple of his god, some of his own offspring struck him down with the sword there.
22 Thus the Lord saved Hezekiah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem from the hand of Sennacherib the king of Assyria, and from the hand of all others, and guided them on every side. 23 And many brought gifts to the Lord at Jerusalem, and presents to Hezekiah king of Judah, so that he was exalted in the sight of all nations thereafter.
Hezekiah had spent the past 14 years reigning over Judah. He was a God-fearing king who delighted in the work of the LORD. He had listened to His mother, and the Prophet Isaiah and turned the nation back to God. However, Judah was still considered a Vassal of Assyria and was required to send yearly tribute to Assyria. This year, Hezekiah did not send tribute.
An Arm Of Flesh
Be strong and courageous; do not be afraid nor dismayed before the king of Assyria, nor before all the multitude that is with him; for there are more with us than with him.
The Assyrian army lays siege to Judah, and it is quite terrifying. Judah cut off the water supply to them, as we see, but they still outnumbered them in men. This arm of flesh was much greater than Judah’s. This must have been terrifying, yet a very common occurrence for Judah. They were a very small nation compared to the great powers around them, yet they had something these superpowers didn’t have.
Hezekiah says “don’t worry, there’s more of us than them.” I can imagine a few people being like, “great, the fear of this army has driven our king mad!” But he continues and says that all the enemy has is an “arm of flesh” but we have the LORD! He tells them to “be strong and courageous.”
So, the Assyrians start to boast. They speak about how they had wiped out so many other nations and their gods had done nothing, so why should your God be any different.
Then the Lord sent an angel who cut down every mighty man of valor, leader, and captain in the camp of the king of Assyria.
So Isaiah and Hezekiah prayed fervently to the LORD, (it wouldn’t have been a two-second prayer, they would have fasted and sacrificed and prayed HARD) and the LORD delivered them. He sends an Angel to take out a great multitude of men. In fact, the angel killed 185,000 Assyrians, (2 Kings 19:36) and caused the Assyrians to be the ones fearful now!
Look at your enemies today and be strong and courageous, acknowledge that you come in the name of the LORD Almighty, and you are not alone.
2 Chronicles 30: 13 – 20
13 Now many people, a very great assembly, gathered at Jerusalem to keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread in the second month. 14 They arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and they took away all the incense altars and cast them into the Brook Kidron. 15 Then they slaughtered the Passover lambs on the fourteenth day of the second month. The priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves, and brought the burnt offerings to the house of the Lord. 16 They stood in their place according to their custom, according to the Law of Moses the man of God; the priests sprinkled the blood received from the hand of the Levites. 17 For there were many in the assembly who had not sanctified themselves; therefore the Levites had charge of the slaughter of the Passover lambs for everyone who was not clean, to sanctify them to the Lord. 18 For a multitude of the people, many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the good Lord provide atonement for everyone 19 who prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.” 20 And the Lord listened to Hezekiah and healed the people.
For decades, Israel and Judah as nations had not properly celebrated the Feast of Unleavened Bread, also called Passover. ( 2 Chron 30:26 ) On top of many of the Kings of Judah (and all the kings of Israel) allowing and even participating in the worship of foreign gods. This resulted in the temple being ransacked and left to rot. When he became king, Hezekiah immediately started turning Judah back to the LORD.
In the previous chapter, he cleaned out the temple, removing the “rubbish” from it. He But during this time, so many things were unclean, they were unable to observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread at the appropriate time, (2 Chron 30: 2-3) So they decided to hold it a month later when they could purify what was needed.
So, they sent word all around the lands, including foreign lands with high Jewish populations that they would hold the feast in Jerusalem, and everyone was welcome. So a great multitude showed up to celebrate. For seven days the feast went on, people were singing and praising the LORD. But many of the people had not sanctified themselves as they should have. It’s understandable because people had forgotten. But their hearts were pure.
May the good Lord provide atonement for everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.
It’s interesting to see God’s forgiveness and His focus on the heart. Most of the time when we think of the Old Testament, we think of His Judgment and His Order, and Rules. But here, the people came and forgot to follow the rules, and still, He allowed it and healed them.
However, He still looked into their hearts. Hezekiah’s prayer was over those who had prepared their hearts. If you were unclean of both body and heart then it didn’t matter. His grace was applied based on the heart.
“This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
As Christians, we have an ordinance that we follow based on the Feast of Unleavened Bread. When we partake of Communion it is for Christians who have prepared their hearts. We don’t have to go through purification and cleansing rituals of our bodies anymore. Our hearts, however, are to be clean and prepared. When we partake of this Communion, God examines our hearts. For He judges on our hearts, not our standing in society or even the Church.
We are called to examine our hearts before we worship Him. This should be done before we read His Word, go to Church or any form of worship. It doesn’t mean that you can’t worship if you find that you have done something wrong. Because if you’re honest with yourself, most days, you will find something unclean in your heart. But we are called to see that spot and the Holy Spirit will convict you of it when you examine your heart. Then, in the worship, acknowledge your sin and ask forgiveness. That is what it means. If only perfect people went to church, it would be empty.
Don’t let your past sins keep you from God.
Before you go on with your day, examine your heart. Ask God to see as He sees, and then ask Him to create a new heart within you.
Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me
– Psalm 51:20
2 Chronicles 29:1-19 New King James Version (NKJV)
1 Hezekiah became king when he was twenty-five years old, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abijah the daughter of Zechariah. 2 And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done.
3 In the first year of his reign, in the first month, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord and repaired them. 4 Then he brought in the priests and the Levites, and gathered them in the East Square, 5 and said to them: “Hear me, Levites! Now sanctify yourselves, sanctify the house of the Lord God of your fathers, and carry out the rubbish from the holy place. 6 For our fathers have trespassed and done evil in the eyes of the Lord our God; they have forsaken Him, have turned their faces away from the dwelling place of the Lord, and turned their backs on Him. 7 They have also shut up the doors of the vestibule, put out the lamps, and have not burned incense or offered burnt offerings in the holy place to the God of Israel. 8 Therefore the wrath of the Lord fell upon Judah and Jerusalem, and He has given them up to trouble, to desolation, and to jeering, as you see with your eyes. 9 For indeed, because of this our fathers have fallen by the sword; and our sons, our daughters, and our wives are in captivity.
10 “Now it is in my heart to make a covenant with the Lord God of Israel, that His fierce wrath may turn away from us. 11 My sons, do not be negligent now, for the Lord has chosen you to stand before Him, to serve Him, and that you should minister to Him and burn incense.”
12 Then these Levites arose: Mahath the son of Amasai and Joel the son of Azariah, of the sons of the Kohathites; of the sons of Merari, Kish the son of Abdi and Azariah the son of Jehallelel; of the Gershonites, Joah the son of Zimmah and Eden the son of Joah; 13 of the sons of Elizaphan, Shimri and Jeiel; of the sons of Asaph, Zechariah and Mattaniah; 14 of the sons of Heman, Jehiel and Shimei; and of the sons of Jeduthun, Shemaiah and Uzziel.
15 And they gathered their brethren, sanctified themselves, and went according to the commandment of the king, at the words of the Lord, to cleanse the house of the Lord. 16 Then the priests went into the inner part of the house of the Lord to cleanse it, and brought out all the debris that they found in the temple of the Lord to the court of the house of the Lord. And the Levites took it out and carried it to the Brook Kidron.
17 Now they began to sanctify on the first day of the first month, and on the eighth day of the month they came to the vestibule of the Lord. So they sanctified the house of the Lord in eight days, and on the sixteenth day of the first month they finished.
18 Then they went in to King Hezekiah and said, “We have cleansed all the house of the Lord, the altar of burnt offerings with all its articles, and the table of the showbread with all its articles. 19 Moreover all the articles which King Ahaz in his reign had cast aside in his transgression we have prepared and sanctified; and there they are, before the altar of the Lord.”
Hezekiah’s father was Ahaz. Ahaz wasn’t like many of the previous kings of Judah. Most of them at least started off following the ways of the LORD. But the Bible tells us Ahaz immediately went against the Lord, and the Kingdom of Judah suffered greatly for it.
Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord, as his father David had done. ( 2 Chronicles 28:1 )
So for sixteen years, Ahaz brought God’s wrath upon Judah. Think about how long that is. That’s 4 presidential terms. 16 years ago I was a sophomore in high school, September 11 was still fresh on our minds, most of us didn’t own cell phones, and George W. Bush was starting his second year in office. That’s a long time to mess things up for a whole nation. It seems quick when you read it in the Bible because it only lasts for one chapter. After Sixteen years of terror, finally, Ahaz’s son turns to the LORD.
The Rotten Apple and The Good Apple
Ahaz’ father was Jotham, who did what was right in the sight of the LORD and also reigned for 16 years. However, it says that the people acted corruptly.
Jotham was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jerushah the daughter of Zadok. 2 And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father Uzziah had done (although he did not enter the temple of the Lord). But still the people acted corruptly. ( 2 Chronicles 27:1-2 )
Those last words can explain what happened to Ahaz. Though his father did right, he saw the people, and their corruption went to him. So by the time Ahaz took power, his mind and spirit had already turned from the LORD.
Hezekiah, however, saw what happened because of this corruption, and listened as the Prophets told his father to stop. I imaging Jotham was proud to see his grandson walk in the ways of the LORD.
Clean Out The Rubbish
During Ahaz’ reign, the Temple was raided by invading armies and was left in squalor. This was such a disgrace, and the first Thing Hezekiah did when he is crowned King was fixed this problem. He didn’t wait until he paraded around the Kingdom, or defeated a great army in the LORD’s name. The first thing he did was to prepare for worship. This is how we should always look at our lives, for we are called to worship Him every day.
Sing to the Lord, all the earth;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
1 Chronicles 16:23
The temple was a disgrace, but he didn’t let that stop him. He called the Levites to “carry out the rubbish” so they could worship again. Our hearts are the modern temple. It’s where the Holy Spirit resides now. And, like the temple, we need to maintain our Hearts. If we don’t examine our hearts, they will become cold and full of rubbish, unwelcoming to the Holy Spirit.
But how do we clean our hearts out? We call on our Priest. Not the Father from the nearest Catholic church, but the Great High Priest Himself. He does the cleaning, but we must be willing to accept His cleaning. It will take time, and it will be hard. But He does it because He is faithful to forgive us.
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. (Hebrews 4:14)
Ask God to clear the rubbish from your heart. Pray for the guidance to examine your heart, and ask Him to give you the strength and wisdom to let Him clean it, understanding that to be molded into His image, He is going to have to stretch you.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.